Statement: Facebook settles for $550 million in case alleging privacy violations

Media Contacts
Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Social media users claimed facial recognition feature ran afoul of Illinois law

Illinois PIRG

Facebook announced Wednesday that it had reached a $550 million settlement with plaintiffs over alleged violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), although Facebook has denied any wrongdoing. BIPA, passed in 2008, requires private entities to acquire informed consent before collecting individuals’ biometric information, such as facial recognition scans, thumbprints, or voiceprints. 

Illinois PIRG has been a leading defender of BIPA in the Illinois General Assembly, where Facebook and others have attempted to weaken the law multiple times in recent years. Along with the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy & Technology, and Electronic Frontier Foundation, Illinois PIRG Education Fund filed an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, supporting the plaintiffs’ position.

The following statement can be attributed to Abe Scarr,  Illinois PIRG’s state director:

Facebook’s record settlement is a victory for consumer privacy rights and a victory for strong, enforceable state privacy laws. The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act should serve as a model for further protections in Illinois and other states.

Biometric information is uniquely sensitive. You can cancel your credit card. You can’t cancel your face. We should know who is collecting and commercializing information created from the stuff our lives are made of. And we should have to opt into — and be able to easily opt out of — any program that utilizes pervasive, intrusive surveillance.